Assistant Professor • Leiden University


Numerous studies have demonstrated that sanctions can promote cooperation. However, it is not only important to know that sanctions can work, but also under what conditions people are actually willing to sanction cooperation positively (i.e., reward) or non-cooperation negatively (i.e., punish). In this article, we demonstrate that people use sanctions less often and sanction more mildly when they decide about sanctioning before (instead of after) the occurrence of others’ (non-)cooperation (Experiments 1 and 2), regardless of whether they decide directly afterwards or after a time delay (Experiment 2). Moreover, we reveal that beforehand (as compared to afterwards), people have not yet formed clear sanctioning preferences (Experiment 3). These findings corroborate our reasoning that the decision environment beforehand induces nonconsequential reasoning and thereby hampers people’s willingness to sanction. We discuss the theoretical, methodological, and practical implications of our work.

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